Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Sentence reduced because of upbringing

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MANITOBA'S highest court has reduced a convicted man's jail sentence and criticized a trial judge for failing to take into account the man's aboriginal background of generational abuse.

In a recent decision brought down by a three-member appeal panel, Guentin James Gabriel saw his sentence for four convictions of breaching terms of probation reduced to 12 months from 16 months.

Justice Freda Steel, who authored the Appeal Court decision, said the trial judge failed to properly consider Gabriel's background when determining the appropriate sentencing solution.

Gabriel was on probation in June 2012 following his completion of a manslaughter sentence, which required him to abide by numerous restrictions. He missed a bus home, which resulted in violating his curfew, and he was not at his sister's home to check in with probation that night.

Gabriel told court once he missed his bus, he feared he would be "breached" and sent to prison. He went into hiding at his girlfriend's house and skipped the counselling program.

The trial judge gave Gabriel a total sentence of 16 months, minus credit for the time served.

Gabriel's defence counsel appealed on the grounds the trial judge had erred in principle by not giving proper consideration to a special pre-sentence report -- known as a Gladue report -- that focused on how his aboriginal upbringing had influenced his decision-making and how he should be sentenced as a result.

Gabriel's Gladue report was brutal: He was raised on a reserve plagued with gangs and high unemployment, and was a victim of physical, emotional and sexual abuse. The trial judge read the Gladue report and said he had sympathy for Gabriel but concluded that based on his record, he had to be held accountable for his actions and imposed the 16-month sentence.

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 15, 2013 A7

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